Nearly rendered obsolete by the emergence of the World Wide Web, the fanzine would probably leave anyone born in the 21st Century completely dumbfounded. Seriously, i’ve seen kids struggle with 80s and 90s technology as if they’d just been handed an ancient rune stone. It’s a discipline only practiced by a select few today, but some of those vintage fanzines offer a window into a world of fax machines, dial-up tones and a time when the printed medium was an invaluable tool in reaching a far-flung audience.
Like a time-capsule, different publications lend insight into various communities around North America and the UK and the ever-changing opinions of the people involved. We’re always indebted to people that take the time to collect and digitise these antiquated publications and a website going by the name of Rave Archive has compiled possibly the most complete and crucial resource to date.
Despite what must have been shoestring budgets, these publications were generally quite comprehensive. Interviews with significant players, some of whom are still prevalent today, are crammed in with haphazardly assembled charts from revered selectors and reviews that tackle everything techno from “neuro-bashing” productions to a long-forgotten sub-genre known as “metal techno.” It doesn’t take a forensic dissection of techno’s formative years to understand why tracks sampling Metallica haven’t stood the test of time, but it’s an amusing snapshot of a period when the genre was still busy cultivating an identity beyond Detroit.
People really do enjoy romanticising the past. Dance music is no stranger to this, and especially so if you weren’t really there. Whether it’s the muddy fields and whistles of the UK’s ‘Second Summer of Love’ or the early days of a reunified Berlin, we yearn to capture an essence of what went on; to get an idea of what it would have been like to experience firsthand.
Ever heard of the Club Kids? They illuminated New York’s gay club scene during the 80s and 90s and now fully-digitised, the Project X archive paints a pretty vivid picture of everything from fashion and drug trends to the brilliantly sardonic sense of humour that pervaded the exclusive but short-lived subculture. It eventually grew into a fully-fledged magazine, but as Geoffrey Chaucer apparently once said, “All good things must come to an end.” Project X went out of print in 1996 and with the changing times came a change in medium for those seeking to document dance music culture in the written word.
To put into perspective how much has changed, Issue #5 of Under One Sky cites not Berlin, but Frankfurt as German techno’s epicentre circa ’89. On the other hand, some things will always stay the same. The popularity of R&S Records hasn’t waned for one – the Belgian institution getting plenty of attention via Adam X’s regular column. The inaugural issue of UK-distributed zine The Scene featured a brief interview with Nicky Blackmarket of the now famed (and unfortunately, currently homeless) Blackmarket Records, while partygoers can be found exchanging cautionary tales with the aim to raise awareness about safe drug use.
For the latter, only the medium has changed. Where we have pillreports.net, Facebook threads and the comments sections on various publications, there was a time when the average punter had to rely on fanzines in order to reach a wider community of ravers. These days likeminded souls are only a click of the mouse away, and it’s quite shocking how quickly we’ve grown to take the internet for granted.